Marblehead, Massachusetts, is full of hidden gems, and Fort Sewall is no different.
First established in 1644, Fort Sewell was built as a defensive outpost. In 1742, it was enlarged to defend the town against the French. Ammunition storage buildings and barracks were added to the fort in 1749 and again during the Civil War. In 1814 the fort was named in honor of Judge Samuel Sewall, who at the time was a benefactor during and after the Revolution. Samuel Sewall later became a Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. According to the Essex Historical Heritage society, Fort Sewall’s greatest moment was on Sunday, April 3, 1814, when the USS Constitution, being chased by two British warships, escaped into Marblehead Harbor with the protection of the fort’s guns. Although Fort Sewall is no longer used as a defense base, it still contains underground bunkers and rooms that were once used to detain prisoners.
Aside from the fascinating history that comes with this public park, there are also spectacular wraparound views of the ocean. There is a large field in the middle of the park. Benches are stationed all along the walkway, and there are fully-functioning bathrooms. You may also notice as you gaze out to sea the Marblehead Lighthouse and Chandler Hovey Park across the water. If you head out to see the fort closer to sunset, you will be able to see the green light that shines from the lighthouse. There is also a free binocular stand stationed for you to enjoy closer views of the lighthouse and boats.
In the center of the park is the underground barracks, and behind them you can see the hills where there are other underground rooms. The rooms are barred and locked, so there is no access to the inside. However, you can view the inside of some of the rooms from the open windows and see different items still inside.
Parking at Fort Sewall is limited to a small lot and some street parking. If you can get a spot within the small lot, you must still walk a little ways down the road to get into the park. Also, because of the stairs throughout the park, the park is not ADA accessible.
Fort Sewall is well worth the visit to check out the wraparound ocean views and the underground bunkers.